Community & Government

Learn From Failure

Melinda French Gates

Lesson time 07:14 min

Making an impact is hard. Melinda encourages you to fight through your struggles when contributing to a cause.

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Topics include: Case Study: Failure in U.S. Public Schools• The Power of the Pivot• Be Flexible• What Do I Know Now, in a Deeper Way


[MUSIC PLAYING] - Nobody likes to fail when they start out to do something. But I think one of the things about failures is that you have to understand if you're trying something risky, which you do need to do, as we've talked about earlier in philanthropy, you're going to fail somewhere and at some time. So just expect it. And get a little comfortable being uncomfortable because the failures are the things that you learn from. You know, in your giving, you're going to set out to do something that you care passionately about or deeply about. You wouldn't be working on it otherwise. But there are going to be disappointing times and times where you feel like, ugh, I worked so hard on this. But that policy change didn't go forward. Or we didn't get more people to recognize that we need more healthy lunches out in our schools. Like, yes, we affected maybe a third of the schools. But our goal really was to affect half the schools. And hunger's going up in our community. Ugh, that's a punch in the gut. I mean, that hurts when that happens. But what I would say is, let it hurt. Don't try to resist it and say, oh, it was OK, and put a glossy view on it and move on. No, realize that this is hard. And what you set out to do was hard as a philanthropist. But you're there. As my friend Brene Brown says, she quotes an old Teddy Roosevelt quote, you're in the arena. You're doing the hard work. So you may take criticisms or you may have setbacks or disappointments. But you're in the arena trying to effect change. [MUSIC PLAYING] One of the things the foundation set out to do in the US school system over 20 years ago was to really change the school system in a way so that it would work for all students. What we thought would work in the US school system, and there was lots of research that was very compelling that suggested that this approach might work, was to break down the schools into smaller units, smaller schools. And that inside that building and those classrooms, you would get better learning outcomes. And what we came to learn was that in fact, it wasn't the structure of the school and the size of the school, per se. It was really the teacher at the front of the classroom and how he or she was teaching that really was predictive of, were the students learning and taking up the material? Working on the structure of the school was less important than it was to work on making sure there was a fantastic teacher at the front of every classroom for every student. And I think that was something that was humbling for us to learn, for sure, that the approach we took wasn't necessarily the right one that would fix the overall school system. And I think we took lessons from that of really trying to understand what was needed. And it's still a very difficult problem. And there still is not nearly a fantastic teacher at the front of every classroom for every student. And that's really sad in some ways...

About the Instructor

One of the greatest philanthropists in history, Melinda French Gates has dedicated her life to giving back to the world. Now she’s teaching how you can identify your own unique assets—time, money, specific skills, or even your voice to discover a strategic path that can turn your power into progress.

Featured Masterclass Instructor

Melinda French Gates

A philanthropist and advocate for women and girls, Melinda French Gates teaches you how to take what you’re good at and use it to create change.

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